Flash Back Fridays

FRIENDS WORLD COLLEGE 1972/73

Friends World College, on boat to Nootka Island, October 1972 had decided that he Mary, Nikki, Michael, Joan, Bergie, Mark (top row) Ken, Mary, Johnny Cake (bottom row)

Friends World College, on boat to Nootka Island, October 1972 had decided that he Mary, Nikki, Michael, Joan, Bergie, Mark (top row) Ken, Mary, Johnny Cake (bottom row)

In 1972, Peter Wright took a sabbatical in order to start a branch of Friends World College, a Quaker College from New York. Peter arrived at the Lodge a few weeks early to prepare for the arrival of the students. I was attracted to Peter’s great intellect; he was one of the most knowledgeable men I ever met. Jim loved his practical application of his worldwide learning to local problems. The second professor at the college, Ken Power, had been looking for an alternative to teaching under structured educational methods. Ken had done undergraduate and post-graduate work in sociology, anthropology and economics at the universities of Windsor , Toronto and Alberta and had enough of structured educational methods. By chance he had written to John Young, a high school principal in Campbell River at the time, who told him about Peter Wright and Friends World College

The undergraduates were to spend the fall and spring living in our new building, ever since called the College building, on the south side of Lodge property. After they arrived, the students had a six-week orientation and then with Peter and Ken would negotiate a topic, a time, an evaluation method, and how the work would be done. The students then roared into action studying the agreed upon topic, such things as wolves in North America, outdoor education, new building techniques and methods of generating and saving power. One student, Mark Hurwitz, built a Buckminster Fuller style geodesic dome, which is still at the Lodge. He lived there with Nikki Ellman. Mary Shed, another student, spent the winter gathering elk droppings, in order to find out what they ate. She later became a wildlife biologist. Some students built canvas kayaks and many participated in creating a large vegetable garden. They lived together, sharing food, books and sleeping quarters. 

Romola and Chris Wright, Peter’s children, lived with us in town that winter so that they could attend school. Chris was about the same age as Jamie (about 10); Romola 15 and our daughter Liz, 13, became lifelong friends. An older son, Steven, arrived much later. In later years Peter visited the Lodge several times and wrote letters every Christmas.

Getting started meant careful planning

Getting started meant careful planning

PETER WRIGHT:
A RENAISSANCE MENTOR 1972-73 A story by David Boulding

While he was disguised as an academic professor, by way of the life he led, Peter Wright was a true renaissance man. According to Peter’s daugh- ter Romola, Peter hated school as a child, but benefited from a Spartan upbring- ing that was to serve him well later in life. He was sent to study at Oxford, after a year in Switzerland learning German and French. He heard Hitler speak in Ger- many in 1932. He completed his degree in History at Oxford, and was awarded an MA. He met many African and Indian students while there, which resulted in him living and working in India for 20 years. He spoke French, German, Hindi and another obscure language from south Asia. When speaking English, he had a lovely Oxfordian lilt. He had studied Latin and Greek and all the classics and it showed: he never stopped learning. He wore his great learning lightly, never im- posing always suggesting and illuminating for eager students.

Peter was later invited to teach at the University of Delhi’s African Studies program in India by Nehru, then worked with the Mao Mao’s in Kenya and was later asked to leave Kenya by the British Foreign Office since a ‘friend’ re- ported that he was involved in the Mao Mao movement. He also taught in Ja- maica, and then settled and worked in New Paltz, New York, where he became chair of the new Area Studies Department and set up a program for students to study in Asia, Africa and South America.

Peter fit into the Lodge like a hand in a well used gardener’s glove. He had a positive effect on Myrna, who saw him as a mentor. Peter was able to en- courage people, not just to read about a topic, but also do something to change things for the better. This, I believe was a small part of the reason why Myrna became so passionate about food, nutrition, and teaching children about good food and good living.

Peter was to visit the Lodge often in the years after the Friends World College year. His daughter tells us that he loved to walk and at 92 years old, on his last visit to the Lodge, wore out Myrna walking up the ski hill as he talked full tilt about world issues. He was always current on world happenings. From food is- sues, to the Ladies in Black who supported the Palestinian cause, to alternative health, to neighborhood associations, to world politics: Peter was well informed.

He passed away in 2007, at the age of 93, after a brief bout with pneumonia. Romola said that on his deathbed, he instructed his children to not fight to keep him alive, as he could see his old friends coming to help him die. Peter was active right up until the last week of his life.